SARATOGA SPRINGS – One of the beauties of Saratoga Race Course is that, even though they’ve been racing here since 1863, you can still show up on any given day and see something you’ve never seen before.
Unfortunately for Jackie’s Warrior, his connections and his fans on Saturday, that meant seeing him get beat at Saratoga.
The 2021 champion male sprinter came into the Grade I Forego on the heels of a victory in the Grade I Alfred G. Vanderbilt that sealed his legacy as the only horse to have ever won Grade I races three years in a row at the Spa.
The Vanderbilt win also pushed his overall record at Saratoga to 5-for-5, but he failed to get the sixth when Cody’s Wish, 8-1 in the betting, resolutely closed on the outside under Junior Alvarado to pass Jackie’s Warrior and jockey Joel Rosario late to win the Forego by 1 1/4 lengths.
“It is a bit sad it’s the last time we’re going to get to run him at Saratoga, but that’s just being greedy,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “He’s just fabulous. He’s brought us so much fun and joy here.”
“When we turned for home and I saw Jackie’s Warrior didn’t take off, at that point we’re taking a good shot at it, and right by the eighth pole I had a good feeling at that point,” Alvarado said. “I still never underestimated Jackie’s Warrior, but by the eighth-pole I definitely was all out, and I knew it was going to happen today.”
Jackie’s Warrior has never run in anything other than graded stakes at Saratoga, winning the Saratoga Special and Hopeful as a 2-year-old in 2020 and the Amsterdam and Allen Jerkens last year, which helped him win the Eclipse Award for male sprinter.
He won the six-furlong Vanderbilt by two lengths on July 30 to complete his Saratoga Grade I winning streak, and was sent off at odds of 1-5 in the seven-furlong Forego.
Jackie’s Warrior broke alertly and was soon engaged by long shot Pipeline, ridden by Irad Ortiz.
They were almost should-to-shoulder around the turn, with Jackie’s Warrior on the inside, while Cody’s Wish started to make his move from the back of the seven-horse field as they approached the quarter-pole.
Pipeline couldn’t keep up, but Jackie’s Warrior wasn’t in the clear, either, and was passed inside the sixteenth-pole by Cody’’s Wish.
Bill Mott, who saddled both Cody’s Wish and Baby Yoda, was grateful that somebody put some pressure on Jackie’s Warrior early.
“I was glad to see somebody going with him, for sure,” he said. “I didn’t think it was going to be either of mine. I thought both of ours were going to settle back. I don’t know whether we were going to be laying second, third or fourth, and actually I thought Cody’s Wish might be a little closer to the pace early. But as it turned out, it was good that somebody entertained Jackie’s Warrior a little bit.
“When he cut the corner at the three-eighths pole and I saw him moving, when he starts moving, he keeps moving.”
“To be honest, the only thing I did was study the race,” Alvarado said, of the challenge he faced against the champion. “I knew Jackie’s Warrior was going to be a tough race. I just tried to see how I could get the most out of my horse. Period. If I finish second, third, just try to ride him the best way possible, and it paid off in the end. He picked up everything at the end.”
“It can be hard to go on like that, but he did everything I asked him, and the horse ran a tremendous race,” Rosario said. “He gave it his best, like always.”
“Hat’s off to Cody’s Wish,” Asmussen said. “Can’t win ’em all, but very proud of who Jackie is.
“Being in horse racing, the chance of it never going wrong is very unlikely. But I thought he ran hard today, he ran well. It was just Cody’s Wish’s day. Everything’s fine. The racetrack’s good, he handled it good. If anything, we needed to get more out of the Vanderbilt for today’s race. But it’s crying over spilt milk. We’re just extremely proud of all of the races he’s run here.”
Jackie’s Warrior will train up to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland, then will be retired to stud.
Cody’s Wish, who needed five races to break his maiden last year, came into the Forego having run in just two graded stakes, a third in the Grade III Challenger at Tampa Bay Downs in March and a win in the Grade III Westchester at Belmont Park in May.
He was coming off a win in the ungraded Hanshin at Churchill Downs.
“It took him three or four races to get going and really come into form,” Mott said. “He needed to get some experience, and now he’s turned into a racehorse.”